B’wick Wants Reform

Rally Attendees Seek Federal Action On Immigration

Elected officials and community advocates attended a forum at the Central Baptist Church in Bushwick Thursday, Aug. 7, urging immigration reform on local, state and national levels.

Residents packed the Central Baptist Church in Bushwick for an immigration forum organized by community-based nonprofit Make The Road New York last Thursday, Aug. 7.

Organized by Make The Road New York (MRNY), a communitybased nonprofit, the event was held to advocate for both federal and city efforts to protect immigrant families by providing relief from deportation, work authorization and the ability to travel; install legal protections and support for children arriving at the border alone; and bring an end to the city’s relationship with ICE, it was noted.

After an individual is arrested and processed through the judicial system, ICE can make a request to the NYPD to have them held under a detainer request, MRNY Lead Organizer Daniel Coates said.

The detainer “asks a local municipality to hold a person for 48 hours,” Coates said.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez urged the president to take executive action to protect immigrants at a forum organized by Make The Road New York last Thursday, Aug. 7.

Under certain criteria, including being found not guilty, having no prior criminal record or as a result of being arrested for a minor crime, advocates want the city to no longer honor any ICE detainment requests, Coates stated.

The city has the power to vote to not collaborate with ICE, Coates said.

“What we’re suggesting is the mayor can exercise discretion and not honor any of the requests,” he said. “While we have limited the collaboration over the years, we feel this is an opportunity to end it.”

Coates also believes it’s an inefficient, costly system.

“Of every 100 detainees that ICE requests 35 are blocked,” and “it costs money to hold a person,” he said.

Urging action at the national level, MRNY handed out petitions for advocates to sign, and postcards to President Barack Obama asking him to take executive action. Daily phone calls to the White House from volunteers are ongoing as part of the effort as well, Coates said.

Speakers at the forum, including Rep. Nydia Velázquez, want the president to prevent deportations and support immigrants.

“And 65 percent of the American people support passing legislation to fix the broken immigration system,” Velázquez said. “The American people, who elect us are telling us, Members of Congress, enough, pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

“We are saying to the president … this Congress will not do anything to address the broken immigration system, so we ask you to use the power of your office, the power of your pen to issue an executive order that will provide the greatest relief to those who have been here for so long,” she added. “Issue an executive order so the DREAMers and relatives of dreamers can remain in the United States.”

Coates told the Times Newsweekly he favors the president taking executive action to end deportations as well.

Further, he believes the president should support the DREAM Act for undocumented so they can come forward and receive a work permit.

The event featured several testimonials from individuals describing their perilous journey to the U.S., and the difficulties of living here as an immigrant.

Rev. Omar Almonte opened the forum, and said he believed in empathy for the less fortunate and newly arrived immigrants. He invoked religious teachings of compassion as well, and said in Spanish, “Jesus was an immigrant.”

The testimonials that described the struggles they went through were hard for even the speakers themselves to get through without tears.

One speaker became emotional as she described her journey to the U.S. to bring her kids “to this country of opportunity,” she said.

“My family is one of thousands,” she added.

Romeo Moreno lives in Staten Island and came to the U.S. from Mexico. He described being arrested for a minor crime, being sent to Rikers Island and then was held in New Jersey for deportation.

Velázquez spoke mostly on her frustration at the inaction on the federal level to support immigrants.

“How we treat children speaks to the character of our nation,” she said.

Speaking on children looking for escape from war and poverty arriving at the U.S./Mexico border, Velázquez said she is angered by many Congressional members’ attitudes towards newly arrived immigrants.

“How could we look into their eyes and say no. That is not the American way. We need to reject that inhumanity,” she said.

“That we could look into the eyes of those little children and say, ‘I’m, sorry, but we are going to send you back,’ that is not the American Way. That is not who we are and we need to reject that kind of inhumanity.

“We want to send the DREAMers back to their countries,” she added.

The testimonials were from “members who are active in our organization,” Coates said. Aside from advocacy work, the nonprofit provides legal help, tenant advocacy, ESL instruction, immigration assistance and job training, he said.

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